Joyce DiDonato on her ‘Eden’ tour triumphs in an unusual hymn to nature recital

SpainSpain Various: Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano), Il Pomo d’Oro / Maxim Emelyanychev (conductor). Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona, 6.6.2023. (JMI)

Joyce DiDonato and Children’s Choir of Orfeón Catalán © A. Bofill

Ives – ‘The Unanswered Question’
Portman – ‘The First Morning of the World’
Mahler – ‘Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft!’, ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ (from Rückert-Lieder)
Uccellini – ‘Sinfonia terza (a cinque stromenti)’
Marini – ‘Con le stelle in ciel che mai’ (from Scherzi e canzone)
Mysliveček – ‘Toglierò le sponde al mare’ (from Adamo ed Eva)
Copland – ‘Nature, the gentlest mother’ (from Eight Poems of Emily Dickinson)
Valentini – ‘Sonata enharmonica’
Cavalli – ‘Piante ombrose’ (from La Calisto)
Gluck – ‘Danza degli spettri e delle furie’ (from Orfeo ed Euridice), ‘Misera, dove son! … Ah! non son io che parlo’ (from Ezio)
Handel – ‘As with rosy steps the morn’ (from Theodora)

There is no doubt that Joyce DiDonato is one of the most important singers in recent years, or at least that is how it has seemed to me since the first time I had the chance to hear her perform eighteen years ago. She was making her debut at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, playing the character of Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and I was both surprised and impressed by her.

I have been able to enjoy her interpretations many times since then, and only remember once where she disappointed me. It was four years ago in a concert version of Handel’s Agrippina at Teatro Real, where she clearly did not dominate the part. The following year, I was able to hear her do the character again, and she dominated the role that time in every aspect.

Now the American diva is on her ‘Eden’ world tour with its unusual musical content. We are used to singers offering vocal exhibitions in this sort of concert, but none of that happens here: her performance is based on pure singing. The music chosen by DiDonato is a mixture of Baroque and contemporary, with a leitmotif: a hymn to nature or, if you prefer, to ecology, to which in her speech at the concert’s end she pays tribute.

Joyce DiDonato is on stage all the time, even though some of the pieces are purely orchestral, She began with Rachel Portman’s ‘The First Morning of the World’, and continued with a stupendous interpretation of Mahler’s ‘Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft’. Next came songs by Marini, Mysliveček and Copland, and a more than remarkable ‘Piante ombrose’ from Cavalli’s La Calisto. She finished the ‘official’ concert with an aria by Gluck, one from Handel’s Theodora and a stupendous Mahler Lied, ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’.

In what one might call the chapter of encores, Joyce DiDonato made a long environmental speech, and then was joined by the Children’s Choir of Orfeón Catalán, with which she sang two songs. She ended the concert with an exquisite rendition of the well-known ‘Ombra mai fu’ from Xerxes.

The accompaniment was carried out by Il Pomo d’Oro under Maxim Emelyanychev, and both conductor and orchestra are to be praised.

José M. Irurzun

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